dear diary :: calm amidst turmoil

Hello everyone – I hope you are all well and safe. We are. Well safe at least from the virus and thank you for your messages of concern, I had not realised I had been away quite this long. Truth is my neck, shoulders and lower back have not been good again lately so I have been trying to stay off the computer and do more exercises to release the build up of tension I get in these areas; it seems most things I want to do, whether it be sewing, cooking or reading blogs, involve long periods with my head down – not a good posture.

It has also been difficult recently dealing with my mum from a distance as she goes into decline both physically and mentally and I am feeling the strain. Mum has just realised, now she is able to go to my sister’s house, that she doesn’t have the strength anymore to manouvre herself in and out of the car without the help of my sister’s husband and that shopping is looking like an activity she will not be participating in any longer.

The restrictions imposed on her, both from the Covid virus and her mobility, are now sending her into a state of depresion and witnessing the news on TV day after day of the recent events is making her feel quite angry. She is never able to disassociate herself from what is going on in the world, even though there is little she can do about it. The recent removal of the statue and the ongoing protests are causing her a great deal of irritation, though, I suspect this is an easy target for her anger at the moment when in reality she is probably angry with the fact that she is so immobile. My problem is trying to calm her down each evening when I phone her and we just keep going over the same topics with me trying to find a way for her to accept that people feel very strongly, enough to gather and protest even in these dangerous times with a killer virus still out there. I have always been a person able to see both sides of an issue – perhaps not always a good thing.

As the assistant in Sainsbury’s said to me the other day when I got chatting to him in the vegetable aisle “it is not just the case that Black Lives Matter but rather Every Life Matters”….he was black so had an interesting point of view on this and I tend to agree with him.

As for the fate of the statues – this is a hard call and I suspect will be yet another division in our society where we already have the north / south, rich / poor, leave / remain, black / white divides.

In our local town we have dear old Harold Wilson on a pedestal (for those overseas readers – a past Labour Prime Minister born locally of a working class family) located prominently just outside the railway station – I suspect many of the young people passing him daily are not even aware of who he was or what he is celebrated for. He took the place of an earlier statue of Sir Robert Peel who just crumbled away! Although Harold was a great campaigner for the rights of the underprivileged, like most of the people commemorated by a statue, he also had a few stains to his character. In Harold’s case, although far from being racist, he did authorise military aid during the Nigerian Civil War, an act that directly cost the lives of millions of black Africans (largely the Biafrans), in return for a supply of cheap oil. The photos of emaciated black children dying of hunger caused a huge political outcry when they were published in Britain and although the Nigerian Civil War of the 1960s is quite forgotten today it is still an episode in our history of overseas intervention by British military that remains.

Our local history is very much built on the textile mills owned by wealthy people like John Ramsden, Joseph Armitage, the Brooke and Brook families, John Crowther, Joseph Quarmby and many others. As far as I am aware there are no statues of them around the town, which is just as well as not all of them can be celebrated for their contribution to human welfare by any means; loss of life and limb for their mill workers was a constant daily threat, but they provided us with our many fine public buildings, schools and churches and were the major source of employment here.

In our little township one mill owner was quite philanthropic and like Sir Titus Salt of Saltaire provided homes, schools, a convalescent home and some pleasure grounds for his mill workers as well as good wages, a dining hall and baths. In fact one of these houses built in 1857 was the first house we bought after we married in the 70’s. It had a garden that stretched down to the mill stream and overlooked the pleasure grounds. The whole terrace has now been listed.

Originally built as under and over dwellings (quite a usual feature in the north) most of the houses, like the one above that we lived in, have been knocked through now to make one four storey dwelling. Sadly a lot of the original Georgian windows had already been replaced in favour of a more modern style, as on the ground floor kitchen window. As it was two houses originally we had a front door number 23 and a back door round the other side of number 21.

So our world is in a state of great unrest at the moment – but then looking at our local history I am reminded that it always has been in one way or another and I think about the words of John Ruskin, to the Merchants and Manufacturers of Bradford, regarding their plan to build a cloth exchange, 1864 during the time of the great wealth of the mill owners who were bringing about so much rapid change (rapid for those days).

“Change must come; but it is ours to determine whether change of growth, or change of death. Shall the Parthenon be in ruins on its rock, and Bolton Priory in its meadow, but these mills of yours be the consummation of the buildings of the earth, and their wheels be as the wheels of eternity ? Think you that ‘men may come and men may go,’ but mills go on for ever ?
Not so; out of these, better or worse shall come; and it is for you to choose which”.

So will we choose for better or worse?

And now we are preparing for the new changes allowed to our movements as shops open once more and tourism starts up again – I feel a sadness that our economy is so reliant on us once again going out to ‘spend, spend, spend’. We seem to go around in circles trying to balance the environment with the effects we have on it by spending and tourism.

I find the best way to overcome any feelings of hopelessness is to either go for a walk or go in the garden as nature is very calming and grounding. So a walk around the block is an excellent tonic.

This verge covered in spring by a mass of daffodils is now dotted with moon pennies and gardens that lay bare before are suddenly filled with all the delights of summer perennials.

In and amongst the exercising and walking I have done a little making and baking. A choclate cake for DH’s birthday…

……and trying out a new recipe I found on the internet using fresh raspberries. It is such an easy recipe – a deliciously melted chocolate brownie mixture, in to which you drop the fresh raspberries and bake in these tiny spring form tins…..

….and eaten when still warm from the oven and topped with fresh cream of course.

Not everything in the kitchen has been baking though – I had a roll of puff pastry and goats cheese to use up, so made my favourite savoury goats cheese and walnut tart – quick to make and always a favourite in summer to have with salad.

I also found time to finish the padded bench cushion so we can while away some time in the garden in between weeding and dead heading.

The large dish is beginning to fill out nicely now with the annuals I planted, brightening up a dull corner.

…and the peonies have opened at last. This is one I bought a few years ago with a beautiful yellow centre. I always think you can never have too many peonies in a summer garden.

So not a lot going on here – but enough at the moment – I am making the most of this time while I can to recharge my batteries. I have a hairdressing appointment booked for the middle of July – all being well – DH needs a hair cut even more than me! We look forward to the day we can go to Scotland and see our garden up there and also visit mum and the grandchildren for a hug – it is a bit of a strange time now when we are not yet safe from the virus but not quite as much at risk – I am not even sure what the rules are anymore, but then we have not introduced many changes here yet and the only shopping we continue to do is our once every other week trip to the supermarket. Maybe we will venture out more soon when I feel the coast is clear.

Stay well and safe everyone – I will be round to catch up with everyone’s blogs soon.

And if you are reading this Suzanne – I couldn’t leave a comment but I am really sorry to see you say goodbye on your blog – I will miss you. x

15 Replies to “dear diary :: calm amidst turmoil”

  1. So glad to hear you are well. Your garden looks lovely and like you have been busy in it.

    Like many I have mixed emotions – I understand the anger in the black lives matter. For too long they have faced systemic and overt racism, death at the hands of police and prison guards. In the US and Australia. And yes, our forefathers had mixed and problematic pasts – slavery, exploitation of the poor. England’s wealth was largely made from colonisation and stealing from other nations. We have our own history of slavery – called it blackbirding, but still largely slavery. Without even addressing the horrendous treatment of Aboriginal peoples.

    And yet to remove the statues! Mmm, not sure. I’d rather have a plaque with some differing perspectives. Though apparently they’ve been trying that in Bristol but it didn’t happen.

    I’ve been gardening too. And would enjoy a continuation of our restrictions. Selfish and wrong, I know. But I like the more local feel and the lack of spend, spend, spend. Like you, I think it a shame our economy depends on consumer spending.


  2. It’s hard to get old and realise we can’t do activities that we have always enjoyed. Hard for others to deal with also. I love your photos. I agree getting out and enjoying creation is so restorative. Twice I have watched the red kite circling overhead and several times listened to skylarks high up in the sky. The meadows full of butter cups and now large daisies are amazing. Better than any shopping.


  3. Lovely photos of your beautiful garden and the surrounding area.
    Hope you can get out soon to see your mum and the Scottish garden

    I’m avoiding most news – or letting it wash over me – the only way I can cope alone without falling into a black hole. Putting on blinkers seems selfish but…………


  4. Sorry to hear about the continuing back/neck issues and the situation with your mother. Both feeling intractable, I’m sure. Just glad you are (relatively) okay at the moment. No easy answers for anything these days. Over here many people are acting as if there is no pandemic so it is incumbent upon oneself to do whatever is necessary to stay safe–says this one–teetering on the very edge of my eighth decade. 🙂

    Thanks for the charming photographs. Nothing like glimpses of an English garden to bring back lovely memories for me. Belated happy birthday wishes for DH.


  5. It is lovely to catch up with your news. Your garden looks idyllic. Love some of your bakes too, they look very tasty.


  6. People are complex, and also morals and what is acceptable change with the times. Many philanthropic men who did heaps of good also had their reprehensible side and, generally, those memories soften over time. I think the memorial statues for past “heroes” are just a tangible symbol for those who have to direct their anger somewhere when they feel helpless to affect the real causes of their dissatisfaction.
    Your mom and mine are in the same place in life. For a few weeks mine did not want to live anymore because things in the news seemed such a hopeless mess. She seems to be cheering up a bit and finding reasons to go on, one being my traveling 10 hours to be with her when I really should have been sheltering in at home and not going out at all. Well, needs must! and here I am.
    Your lovely photos are a bright spot in my day. Thanks for sharing. Peace and love to you.


  7. I appreciate this thoughtful post – sharing your feelings, your activities, and your photos. You seem to do all of this in such a graceful, honest way and it really touches me. Thanks so much!


  8. Fabulous post m’dear. If I commented on everything I’d write too much, so please excuse a catch-all “yes” to everything, and thank you for putting some difficult concepts into great words.

    Your garden looks wonderful and your food is making me hungry . . . I hope you can find a way of helping your Mum settle her thoughts, which would make life easier for everyone. Oh, and that your back/neck/shoulders ease up. Have you ever looked on YouTube for Yoga with Adriene?


  9. You make some really interesting points in this blog. Like you, I think I have the ability to see both sides of an issue but I do wonder if this comes from my desire to please everyone and offend no-one! Probably not the best way to be because, in trying to please everyone else, I think I’m often putting myself last.

    Definitely every life matters! I don’t know why we’re even talking about ‘black lives’, it should be just ‘lives’!

    I also feel it’s such a shame that re-booting the economy relies on spend, spend, spend aka consume, consume, consume. Before Covid-19 it really felt like people were starting to hear the messages around saving the planet, global warming, plastic pollution etc.


    1. I feel that in the US we need to focus on “black lives” right now because they are the people who have to bear the brunt of the brutal, unfair, racism that is still alive in my country (much to my amazement and shame). “All” are not being held back by poor education, poor health care, police brutality, etc. – so to focus on people of color right now is the right thing for those of us who have had privilege in our lives. I don’t have solutions but know we must support those who need us to witness their struggle and to help make this country better and more fair. No one is saying that one life is more important than another – it is just turning the focus on those who have been denied the chances to live happy, healthy lives like we all want! Peace!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Different times require an adjustment of attitudes. The destruction of statues, renaming of streets, towns and communities, really has gone to absurd extremes. Everyone needs to take a step back and study the history behind some of the extreme opinions of our ancestors.


  11. I tend to see both sides to things as well but I also feel strongly that people should go about things the right way. I’m equally annoyed at people thinking they have the right to vandalise statues as I am at the police standing by watching them do it and the government turning a blind eye to the lack of social distancing taking place. I shall seriously question the whole isolation nightmare if numbers don’t shoot back up over the next 2 weeks having seen what’s been going on across the country with groups of people congregating.

    I’m sorry to hear your Mum is struggling physically and mentally with things. It’s very hard to keep jollying people along at times isn’t it especially when we’re all going through the same thing.

    The raspberry chocolate brownies look delicious. I have some frozen raspberries but think they may be too ‘wet’ to use in a cake mixture, although I’m sorely tempted to try.

    Thank you for commenting about the blog. I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it, but since putting it to bed, I feel strangely liberated. Maybe it had just run it’s course regardless of the supermarket drama lol 🙂 xx


  12. So nice to see an update from you. I am sorry to hear about the pain you have been dealing with and hope it is becoming more manageable by the day.
    The situation with your mother is sad and, no doubt, difficult for all of you. I agree that time in the garden and walks are helpful in these times.
    Your garden is looking so pretty. The peonies are spectacular. I had a few of them in my former garden and miss not having them now. It has been a joy to see them on so many blogs.
    Your photos from the kitchen made me hungry despite just finishing my lunch.


  13. Like you, I love the colour and shape of plants and I find that being out there – garden, allotment, countryside, it makes no difference – grounds me and gives me a calmness and sense of stability that I greatly treasure. Your garden is simply stunning – there’s no other word for it.
    I’m sorry about your mum – I know how it feels – and about the pain you are having, both difficult to manage.
    Sending love


  14. Such an interesting and thought provoking post. I hear you on being able to see both sides. I think as white people we have a duty to listen, and not to make ourselves complicit by thinking that everything is ok for everyone when it so clearly isn’t. Every life does matter but it is important for us to remember that black lives are part of that too.

    Liked by 1 person

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